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Caribbean Soca Queen

Dynamic movements, daring outfits and the undeniable vocal ability of songstress Alison Hinds has placed her in the revered realms of soca royalty for more than three decades. The Barbadian star has graced stages throughout the Caribbean as well as the United States and Europe. Though she is held dear as a soca legend, Alison Hinds is truly much more than this. She is a proud cultural ambassador for Barbados and the Caribbean, a motivational speaker, and a committed wife and mother.

Rise to the top with Square One

Alison first rose to national stardom with her band Square One in the late 1980s. With the support of her family, she was on a path to permanently change the soca scene. This would have been a significant challenge at the time as most bands during this era were predominantly male. In a 2011 interview, Alison shared, “When I came onto the scene I was the first female to come to the forefront [of a band], have hit songs, fronting a band...At that time, the trend was either an all-male frontline, or there was a male who was the star, who was the lead. If there was a female in the band, she maybe did one or two songs, but basically, she was there to provide support, background vocals.”  But, this did not deter the young star as both she and her bandmates had a musical dream to revolutionise Barbadian and Caribbean music- and that, they did. With hits like ‘Ragamuffin’ and ‘Bazodee’, Alison and Square One quickly became favourites for soca lovers.

Alison’s Achievements

From early on in her career, the love for Alison could be felt as she gave high energy performances every time she touched the stage. In 1997, she created history in Barbados when she became the first woman to secure the Party Monarch and Road March titles during the island’s Crop Over festivities with the song ‘Meantime’.

The year was 1998 when Alison’s vocals, backed by Square One, could be heard nonstop across the region’s airwaves. The song was the massive hit Faluma. The lyrics of the infectious dance tune are in the traditional language of the Surinamese Saamaka ethnic group, and this move helped to showcase Alison’s commitment to the culture of the Caribbean which before was so often overlooked.

To date, Alison’s greatest hit has been the female empowerment anthem, ‘Roll’. Amassing well over 3 million YouTube views, this 2005 release captured a new audience in countries such as Canada and even the Far East. Though Alison is well-known for her dance tunes, this song’s powerful lyrics served as an encouragement to women to seek upliftment in all aspects of their lives.

Speaking on a South Florida morning show,  the singer shared that she is truly committed to strengthening the women around her. “I have been known throughout my career as a woman who is all about female empowerment and all about us as women. Strengthening us and getting us to not only be strong but also recognise the other parts of us...We are wives, we are mothers, but we are so much more.”

Alison’s Movies

Alison’s star power is not limited to her music alone. In recent years, she has starred in several films. She first appeared on the big screen in 2014 in the movie, ‘Two Smart’ where Alison took the role of Madj Smart. The plot tells the tale of a married couple who find themselves trapped with a hitchhiker during a tropical storm. This movie can now be found on Amazon.

In 2019, the songstress teamed up with Barbadian director Marcia Weekes and Jamaican actors Kevoy Burton and Christopher Macfarlane in the film, ‘Joseph’. ‘Joseph’ told the story of a successful young man who battles several negative stereotypes to ultimately connect with his true identity. While shooting the movie, Alison and the crew had to travel to Ghana, Jamaica and Barbados. For Alison, being proud of her Caribbean, and by extension, African roots, this provided the opportunity for her to delve a bit deeper into the beauty of the diaspora. In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, she noted, “Just being there and seeing the similarities, recognising that we are really just one people who have been dispersed throughout the Diaspora was amazing.”

Alison’s Awards

It comes as no surprise that Alison Hinds has been showered with numerous accolades and awards over the years. She has accepted several awards for her musical talents, her powerful acting, as well as her humanitarian efforts.

Here are but a few of the Soca Queen’s many awards:

  • 2010: International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRWMA) Best Female Vocalist
  • 2013: Alison Hinds was specially chosen as an influencer in the ‘Watch Hunger Stop’ Campaign, led by famed designer, Michael Kors.
  • 2014: Alison was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador for the International Federation of Business and Professional Women
  • 2016: Alison receives the key to the city of Hartford in Connecticut
  • 2018: Award for Artistic Excellence by the Barbados Independent Film Festival (BIFF)

Contemporary Alison

The music scene has gone through many changes since the 1980s when Alison made her debut. But like a true star, Alison Hinds has seamlessly adapted. She is surrounded by a team who support her artistic vision while maintaining her fans’ attention. “The way for me to kind of remain connected is that I try to stay in contact with young producers, young writers who are fresh. They have a different point of view. That’s what helps me to remain where I am and to be able to be a part of what’s happening at this point in time.”

As music has evolved over the years, so too has the social scene. For Alison, the incorporation of popular social media platforms has been ideal for effortlessly interacting with fans from all over the world. Describing her social media as “on point”, the singer definitely believes that social media has helped to provide more exposure for soca. Known for her Instagram posts, dubbed ‘#aligram’, Alison’s 188,000 followers are given glimpses of the queen’s life as a mother, activist and of course, performer.

Her Legendary Impact

Alison Hinds’ influence is much more than the joy her music brings to soca lovers everywhere. It is also the inspiration ignited in upcoming stars as they see this Barbadian icon perform on large international stages. This sentiment was echoed by Trinidadian soca superstar Machel Montano as he reflected on the role the Barbadian songstress played in the development of soca music. “Barbados has recognised a young woman who has been in this business for years; a woman who started a career at such a young age and maintained, transformed over a period of time and also stayed with integrity, and integrity is important. It is not about being judged by what people say but what you do, and when you look at Hinds’ career she has released so many songs that changed the history of ‘soca’ – this is not easy for a woman to do, especially in a male-driven industry like soca music. Thank you, Barbados for recognising the immense contribution of this young lady.”

In a BBC Caribbean publication, journalist David Hinkson remarked that Alison Hinds’ role in the Caribbean music industry has served to create a way for new female artists. "There are so many people who have followed in her footsteps.” He also shared that her legacy is cemented as part of the region’s culture and is so far unmatched.  “I don’t think there's anyone singing right now who can step up the game to where she was but I think somebody new and completely different is going to have to come and change that, that’s the kind of legacy that she's left."

Alison is well aware of how her boldness as a female entertainer has served to inspire the generation of female performers who so eagerly look up to her and hold her as an icon.

She once noted, “They at some point have come to me and said ‘I watched you when you had ‘Ragamuffin’ video’ and that was their inspiration for them to be like. ‘I can go and do this’.”

Interesting Facts

  1. Alison once shared that she would have considered being a translator if she was not a singer.
  2. She hopes one day to collaborate with Barbadian singer, Rihanna.
  3. Alison was born in England but permanently moved to Barbados as a young child.
  4. The singer counts her mother’s support as her catalyst for musical success.
  5. Alison noted that she fell in love with ‘Roll’ the first time she heard it and was able to record the song in just one take.

Video 1: Faluma/ Makelele

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qysStCooZNg

Video 2: Carnival Way

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTNI8i7gmJ8